Focus on Success in Education – Part 4 of “Inequality and Education”

This is my fourth video in my series on Inequality and Education and this one discusses the importance of a focus on success in education. Kids must learn more than just academic lessons. They must learn that success is a process; a process that is a skill that must be learned to sustain ongoing success in whatever they do.

In our last segment we talked about the importance of partnerships between parents and teachers. Today, we shift our focus to success, one of the key variables in the education equation.

In my book, The Difference is You: Power Through Positive Leadership, focus on success is one of the core principles of positive leadership. A crucial lesson for leaders in any venue is how to create and sustain a motivated workforce. The answer is: make people feel important and, no, it is not enough to just like them and treat them nicely. People know they are important when their leaders demonstrate, through both words and actions that they are dedicated to the success of their people.

This is true for leaders in business organizations, for public school principals, and for teachers in a classroom.

Winning is a form of success but success is more than just winning. Successful people win often but they also lose, sometimes and get disappointing outcomes. What distinguishes these powerful men and women from others is that they’ve learned, both, to accept responsibility for their outcomes and that success is a process. They’ve learned not to be discouraged by their mistakes and disappointing outcomes and they understand that they are opportunities to learn and grow. This confidence eliminates the fear of failure and, in turn, enables them to strive for ever-higher levels of achievement. It fosters and sustains a motivation to learn.

We all want to be successful at what we do but it doesn’t just happen. Learning how to master the process of success is a skill just like learning how to read, write, add, and subtract. In the classroom, it involves giving kids however much time they need to grasp the underlying logic or principles of a lesson and to learn from their mistakes.

When the child succeeds, that success is celebrated and the student is ready to move to a new lesson. When that process is replicated, over and over, the child is not only learning specific academic lessons, they are learning how to be successful; they are learning the process of success.

The challenge for teachers is that kids, by definition, lack maturity and are prone to be discouraged by failure. They are quick to give up on themselves in the face of difficulty and often choose the easiest path which is to stop trying. Letting students fail has devastating consequences for young lives, not to mention society.

The best time to prevent failure of these kids is during their first few years of school. If we wait until middle school or high school, the damage is already done the odds of turning these kids around diminishes, significantly.

One cannot learn how to be successful without having experienced success, particularly hard-won success. If you are a teacher, examine your classroom and ask yourself:

How many of your students experience success, routinely?

How many experience repeated failure?

We are teaching kids how to fail every time a teacher records a low or failing score in their gradebook and then moves the class on to a new lesson before some kids are ready.

This is not what teachers want to do rather it is what the education process demands of teachers. This education process sets kids up for failure.

Please take the time to read my education model and white paper to see one way we can reinvent the education process to focus on success and eliminate the kind of failure that destroys a child’s motivation to learn. Examine it not in search of reasons why it won’t work rather seeking reasons why it can.

Please, share this video with everyone you know and ask them to join you in a quest to transform public education. Millions of children are desperate for your help!

It is public education on which the futures of our nation’s children depend and it is our children on whom our nation’s future depends.

Remember, It’s all about the kids!!!!

Check out Part 3 – Inequality and Education

In this third segment of my series of videos on Inequality and education, which is the civil rights issue of our time, I answer the 2nd of the two most important questions in education:

Why do some kids succeed in spite of the tremendous disadvantages they face?

The first question was “Why do so many kids fail?

Today’s question is the most important of the two because as important as it is that we understand why kids fail, it is even more important to understand how some kids overcome their disadvantage and enjoy academic success.

When we begin to understand what works we can work to replicate that success.

The key to success of these wonderful exceptions is that the kids who break out of poverty to become successful, academically, and go on to lead productive lives is that these children were supported by a parent or guardian who was fiercely determined that an education would provide a way out of poverty for their child.

These parents, grandparents, or other guardians worked hard to instill a powerful motivation to learn in their son or daughter; they did everything they could to prepare their child for academic success; they make sure their child does their work; and, when their child struggles they work patiently with them to make sure they learn.

What they also do is show up at school and get to know their child’s teacher. They often initiate this contact out of suspicion and mistrust because they are fearful that the teacher will not be looking out for their child’s best interests. These parents and guardians are, after all, part of multiple generations of men and women who have always failed in school and have always been poor. Their experiences with their own teachers are often unhappy memories.

Once they get to know their child’s teachers and begin to witness the success that their child enjoys and hear how much their child loves that teacher, these parents or other family members become committed partners, sharing responsibility for the education of their kids.

This partnership is a powerful thing that not only preserves the child’s motivation to learn; it fuels that motivation. It is a crucial variable in the education equation.

It is the creation of such partnerships that we need to replicate. Such replication is easy if the parent is already engaged and committed but it becomes an extraordinary challenge when they are not so engaged. Very often, in addition to their suspicion, these parents and guardians are indifferent and have few positive expectations. How can they have positive expectations when their own experiences were disappointing and disillusioning?

In Part 4 of my series on education and inequality, we will talk about what it is that teachers must do to pull these parents in as partners. Inevitably, the answer depends on creating opportunities for the child to enjoy success.

It is such a sad thing that so many children are failing and the adverse consequences for both the children and society are incalculable. It doesn’t have to be that way but we cannot alter this reality until we change the way we task, structure, support, and resource the education process that is the milieu in which teachers live and work. This requires positive leadership from our principals, superintendents, college professors who train teachers, and policy makers who are in charge of the mission, vision, and values of public education; the people who have strategic responsibility.

What is frustrating is that it is so easy to change. All we need to do is refuse to let kids fail. Teachers, however, are unable to “refuse to let kids fail” when the education process is focused on failure than structured to focus on success.

More about this in my next post.

No Quick Fixes or Simpler Times

One mass shooting after another has our nation reeling in grief and disbelief, prompting people to call out for action. “We need to fix this!” some people shout. “It’s time for action!” others proclaim.

Listen carefully!

There are no quick fixes and there will never be a return to simpler times.

The problems of our nation are fundamental and have evolved over many generations. They are rooted in the deep economic, cultural, sociological, emotional, ecological, and political issues that divide us as a people.

These differences that divide us as a people result from a huge population of Americans who are embittered and angry because the American dream is not and has never been real for the vast majority of their children. It results from black Americans for whom the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s and beyond have not been kept.

These difference also result from a huge population of Americans who are angry and embittered because they are being asked to support millions of dependent Americans whom they view, rightly or wrongly, as unwilling to support themselves. It results from the propensity of so many Americans to feel their prejudices are justified.

These differences have damaged some individuals spiritually and psychologically to the point that they seem compelled to strike out in futile anger at the world and at innocent men, women, and children; with mass shootings having become their fashion of our times

People want to return to simpler times when values were clear; when it was clear who was in charge; when most of us looked alike, at least with the color of our skin; and when the political issues of the day were such that republicans and democrats were able to come together and find solutions with which both sides could live.

Times will never be simpler than they are today and our society will never be less diverse. It is only a matter of a few short decades when white Americans will be a minority population. The combination of our nation’s poor who depend on our government for economic support and the baby-boomer population that is rushing into retirement will place unprecedented pressure on those who work to keep our economy productive.

The complexity of the world marketplace, political jigsaw puzzle, growing world population, and the changing environment are of an unprecedented breadth and scope and will not respond to the policies and ideologies of the 20th Century. We are now in the 21st Century and we have only gotten a glimpse of the changes on the political, economic, social, cultural, and ecological horizon as this 21st Century unfolds before us. What we need are fresh solutions, new and innovative ideas, open minds and imaginations, and a new appreciation that we are all in this together.

No matter how hard we think we are working to find solutions to the issues of this new century nothing we will do can possibly work unless they meet the needs of every single one of us. There can no longer be a “we” and “them,” republicans and democrats, liberals and conservatives, “free-marketers” and socialists. There are just too many of us and every action any of us take, unilaterally, will cause a series of reactions that will reverberate across the sea of our world’s population; not like ripples on a pool rather like a series of tsunamis across the oceans of the planet.

We must start by addressing the fundamental issues of American society within the context of a democracy in which everyone counts or no one counts. It must begin with the way we educate our children.

We can no longer accept an education process that lumps our children together and pushes them along an academic path that expects them all to arrive at the same place at the same time.

We can no longer tolerate and education process that is structured to support the convenience of educators while ignoring the unique needs of a diverse population of our nation’s children.

We can no longer permit an education process that ignores the reality that all young children need a rich and nurturing environment in which their relationships are more important than what we do with them. We must understand that it is only through our relationships with them that we can give them that which is important.

We can no longer ignore the fact that the world-wide-web has made peer influence more powerful than it has ever been at any time in the history of mankind and that has become more powerful than the influence of either family or our schools, working independently. The only hope we have of remaining the most powerful influence in the lives of our children is for families and schools to work together as partners.

We must no longer be willing to forgive educators for sending one class of our nation’s children after another out into the world so inadequately prepared for the responsibilities of citizenship and so poorly equipped to support their families and to compete in the economic marketplace.

Neither can we continue to place the blame for the problems of our systems of public education on the shoulders of the men and women who are asked to teach our children in the midst of an education process that works for neither the teacher nor the child. Our public school teachers are heroes but they must be challenged to break out of their encapsulation and change their paradigms.

However distasteful it may seem to some Americans, we must find an economic solution that can feed, provide power, house, educate, and provide for the health of not only a burgeoning and more diverse population of Americans but also what will soon be the ten or more billions of people on this planet. How are we going to respond to the next great plague that will erupt across the world and devastate a population of people with no immunity to protect them?

I challenge all of you to consider the following as an analogy for every aspect of human life on the planet Earth: “how do we feed ten billion or more people on free-range chickens?”

These problems are too big for there to be any quick fixes and we can only control that which is within our power to control.

For the United States of America, it must begin with the way we educate our children and it must begin in our public schools. Surely it must be as obvious for public school teachers to see that what they are doing is not working as it is obvious that charter schools cannot provide a quality education for our nation’s fifty million children between the ages of 6 and 17 years of age.

I offer an education model that is designed to give our nation’s children what they need so that each and every one of them learns as much as they can as quickly as they are able and in which no level of failure can be tolerated. Our system of public education must not be structured as if it is a competition but rather as a training camp to prepare our children to complete once they leave school and enter society as adults. I urge you to examine my model with an open mind looking for reasons to hope that it might work rather than searching for reasons why it will not.

You will find the model at http://www.melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/

I do not suggest that this the only education model that will work. If you don’t like what you read you are challenged to develop a better education model.

What you must not do is think for a single moment that you can fix that which is broken in our society by protests or by hoping that somehow we can legislate a change in the hearts of humanity. What you must not do is think that we can solve our problems by continuing to do what we have done it the past. Where we are today is a function of all that we have done in the past.

I understand how powerless many of us feel but we are powerless for only as long as we work alone. If we want solutions we must latch on to a positive idea and do everything within our power to put wings on that dream.

The only thing that we can do, unilaterally, is to pray that we will be granted the wisdom to find a path to the future that unites us as a people rather than divide us any further than we are already divided. We can pray that we will all rally around a positive idea. The only way to improve the future is to improve the way we prepare our children.

It’s all about the kids!

Inequality and Education, Part 2 – One of the Two Most Important Questions in Education

Below is the 2nd in my series of videos on “Inequality and Education” in which we answer one of the two most important questions in Public Education: “Why do so many kids fail?” (the text of the video is available below the link)

In my next post we will answer the second of the two most important questions in public education: “How do some students succeed in spite of the tremendous disadvantages that they face?

Hi, I’m Mel Hawkins with Part 2 of my series on inequality and education.

Today we answer one of the two most important questions in public education.

Why do so many kids fail?

Is it because they can’t learn?

It’s sad how many people expect kids to fail, especially children of color. Most of us, however, believe all kids can learn if we give them the time, and attention they need.

This begs the question:

So, why haven’t we given failing students what they need? Do teachers not care? Are teachers not competent?

Visit an underperforming classroom and you will see frustrated teachers, working hard to make a difference; frustrated because they do care and because the education process doesn’t work.

If two teachers exchanged classes, one high performing and the other not, we would see little or no change in outcomes. All are trained in the same universities, some just have more challenging students.

Kids have been failing for generations.

Ironically, testing to high quality academic standards makes it worse.

Don’t get me wrong! Rigorous academic standards are essential and we must never lower the bar!

It’s one thing, however, to outline what must be learned in school and quite another to dictate the pace of learning for students with different abilities.

High stakes testing places teachers under relentless pressure to move kids along, ready or not and this leads to failure.

When recorded in a grade book, failure becomes part of the academic record and teachers begin to view kids as slow learners.

Worse, it colors a child’s perception of themselves and impedes the development their self-esteem.

When teachers complain, leadership blames the testing like we are powerless.

Maybe we can’t stop the testing but we can make giving kids our time and attention our top priority and never something to be compromised under pressure, which is what happens whenever we say it’s time to move on.

Over the years, new methods and approaches have not lived up to expectations.

These new approaches are like new wine stored in old wineskins that sours from within that which we’ve worked so hard to create.

The only thing that matters is that students learn, not how fast they learn.

Why not stop the failure before it begins by creating a process that gives every child what they need to learn from day one?

Please read my model and white paper, at my website, to see how easy it would be to reinvent the process to focus on success and stop the failure.

Please share this video with everyone you know and ask them to join you in a crusade to transform public education!

Millions of kids are waiting for you to do something! Why not this?

Making sure all children learn is the most important thing you can do for the future of our country.

Remember, “It’s all about the kids!!”